velvet altered bistro dress

I promised I would show you this dress when I finished it, so here it is! This exactly the same Liesl + Co Bistro Dress with alterations I showed you last week, but this time I sewed it in silk velvet. (I also made the neckline higher, since it was really bugging me that I forgot to do that on the first dress.)

Liesl + Co. Bistro Dress

Customized Liesl + Co. Bistro Dress

Back view of customized Liesl + Co. Bistro Dress

I’ve sewn a lot of velvet, but I’ve never sewn silk velvet so I took my time with this one to be sure it turned out perfectly. And I must say that I’m really pleased with it! It feels so, so good to wear. The fabric is soft and drapey and luxurious. And at $40/yard at Mood (I needed 2 yards), it still cost less than a dress of much lower quality at most stores.

Technical details:

  • I hand basted every seam before I sewed it. Every. Seam. It took a little while but was so, so worth it since it prevented the fabrics from shifting. When I sat down at the machine I could sew knowing it was safe. The edges of the fabric curled a bit, but it wasn’t too difficult to sew since I had already done the hard work by hand.
  • I also used a walking foot, just to be sure.
  • I fully lined the dress and also included the neck facings to add stability and body at the neckline. The facings were cut from the same black sateen as my first dress, since I was pretty sure the sateen would add the right amount of structure to the neckline. The lining is Bemberg, which I’m having trouble finding in Spain. It’s become a precious commodity for me, since I love the hand and drape of Bemberg as opposed to most lining fabrics, which can be really nasty. I’m going to start hoarding it when I find it.
  • I want to add something to help stabilize the front neckline a bit more, since it’s still a bit too drapey and has a tendency to open instead of standing up straight. I haven’t decided how to do it, but fashion tape isn’t an option. (I hate that stuff.) I’m debating boning. Any other suggestions?
  • I was also worried that the fabric would be too drapey to support the pockets, but I tested some scraps and decided it was fine. I used 1/4″ twill tape to stabilize the seam allowances (see the Bento Tee instructions for details), but otherwise it worked great. I like how they’re a subtle detail you almost don’t notice at first.
  • I used a velveteen press cloth and had no trouble at all sewing and pressing the darts. Each time I pressed I took care not to press very hard. In fact, the full weight of the iron never hit the fabric. But honestly, it was much easier to sew silk velvet than everything I read beforehand led me to believe. Don’t let the “scary” fabrics intimidate you! Just practice a bit beforehand so you can approach the project with confidence.

Liesl + Co. Bistro Dress

What else? That’s about it. Like all my personal sewing projects, this came together bit by bit. Maybe a seam every other day or so, in between all the sample sewing I’m doing for our upcoming spring pattern shoot. It was an easy project. I really enjoyed sewing the silk velvet and found it to be much simpler than I thought.

Now I need someplace to wear it. And don’t ask me to walk anywhere in those shoes, OK?



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  1. Kitty

    Just gorgeous. Silk velvet is such a lovely, luxurious fabric. Perhaps narrow horsehair braid would work on (in) your neckline? I know it’s really for hems, but perhaps a little bit sewn in at the front would give some supple structure.

    1. That’s a good idea, Kitty! I’ll ask for it at the trim store and let you know how it works out.


    It is so beautiful! Would some type of interfacing not work?

    1. The facing is interfaced, but unfortunately it isn’t enough. But I think I’ll try the horsehair braid idea and see if that helps!


    I hated for the corners of the button on the shoulder jumpers and Jon jons I made my children to get floppy. I would interface only the lining of the button and buttonhole areas on the shoulders. It wouldn’t show on the right side but kept the corners nice and crisp.

    1. The interfacing I used on the facing isn’t enough, despite the body of the facing fabric, but I’m going to try Kitty’s idea of horsehair braid to see if that works.

  4. It is gorgeous!!!! No thoughts on the neckline, that is beyond my pay grade (but please report back on what you use!), but this dress is so lovely and DAMN WOMAN those are some amazing shoes!!! Who needs to able to walk? The whole outfit is classy and excellent!

  5. Soft and Stable is probably too thick to use in the neck facing, right? Maybe a thinner interfacing like Jeb suggested? It looks so soft.

  6. Thanks, Inder! I treated myself to the shoes a couple of years ago for a fancy dinner we attended. In New York you put on your shoes after you arrive, since we do far too much walking and subway riding to wear them to and from the party. But here? Too many cobblestones to wear anything spindly. Even my kitten heels don’t get much wear.

  7. jane doe
    1. Thanks for the links! I wonder why it’s so expensive in the UK?

      1. I wonder that too! Grrr. Love Bemberg, but it’s sooo expensive here.

        Petersham would be an in-between option for the neckline if horsehair braid is too stiff. Regardless, I love this dress. Velvet was my (completely disastrous) choice for my first-ever dress project, and 20 years later (!) I feel it might be time to give it another go very soon.

  8. What Inder said! I was admiring the dress as I scrolled down, but then once I’d seen the shoes, it was game over.
    I think I remember the shoes in a shop window photo when you were lusting after them, so congratulations.
    And yeah, great dress

    1. Same shoes, Lightning! I won’t need any more party shoes for a while…

  9. So lovely and elegant.

    1. Thank you, Emily!

  10. Camille

    So beautiful! I can’t wait to make this dress. Thanks so much for the information you shared with us. I’m going to buy some silk velvet and nice lining. Thank you, Jane Doe for the information on getting the lining in the states. I love Britex . Please tell us how the horse hair braid works for you. I am 66 years old and will knock them out in my little black dress and choker of pearls.

    1. You will, Camille!


    I look forward to hearing how the braid works. I know one blogger that totally interfaces her front fabric, but don’t think that would work for velvet. The only other thing I could think was maybe sandwiching some organza across the corners.

  12. I reminds me a little of the diplomat dress (which is one of my favorite patterns). Very nice!

  13. Martha

    Liesl, Did you line the sleeves as well?

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